Sai Baba Sri Sathya Sai Baba

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Experiences by Devotees of Sri Sathya Sai Baba


Letting Go is Letting God In

By Judy Warner

"Your hearts are my home! Swami will safeguard the purity of your heart which is His home. Swami will bless you with His presence, around, beside, behind and before you. Remember three things always: Always serve, wherever you are. Seek chances to help others. Never lose an opportunity to use your skills and enthusiasm for the alleviation of sorrow, pain and distress. Again, do not omit or neglect or postpone your own particular spiritual practice. Above all, have the faith that Swami is with you, at all times and places."
- Sathya Sai Baba

It was in September, 1984, that I first heard of Sathya Sai Baba. In one sentence I can say: My whole life has changed. I am almost totally devoted to Baba or the God within. How this happened, I don't quite understand, by maybe if I recall some of the events of my life and my experiences with Baba, the understanding will come.

I have spent most of my life developing self-confidence and ego, for as a child, I had very little sense of my own worth. I was brought up in New York City in an upper middle class family which was highly competitive. My father was a Supreme Court Judge, my mother, an important and influential person in the United Jewish Appeal, and my brother, a famous television producer. It took me thirty-five years before I realized that I was my self and not the judge's daughter, the producer's sister or some appendage of my family. Finally, at 43, I realized I had everything I wanted: two marvelous, healthy children, an ideal long term relationship, wonderful friends and enough money and success. Yet, there was something still gnawing at me; something deep down inside was missing. I used to say to my friends, "No one will ever feel fulfilled unless he finds a connection with something larger than himself - the Source, God, whatever you want to call it."

In 1983, after completing an enormous effort, co-producing and co-writing the music and lyrics for a musical, I made the decision for the first time in my life not to decide what I would do next. Somehow, my need to prove myself and my desire for recognition no longer seemed important. However, this was not an easy decision. Actually, it made me very nervous, for I would have to wait, be patient and experience the anxiety of not knowing. Instead of diving head first into a new project, I was going to try out to trust that something would evolve naturally for me.

A year later, I read two books about Sri Sathya Sai Baba: The Holy Man and the Psychiatrist and Avatar. I became completely entranced with the human values expressed by Sai Baba. I felt his love and a special vibration in any book about or by him. I had already read widely in the field of human consciousness and spirituality. As a matter of fact, by a coincidence (if you believe in coincidences), I had recently started working as a freelance editor with a new publishing company in this exact field. I had read Ram Dass, Muktananda, Paramahansa Yogananda; and they all said many wonderful things, but none had ever moved me like Sai Baba.

When I read, "Let the different faiths exist, let them flourish, and let the glory of God be sung in all languages and in a variety of tunes"; and when I learned that, unlike most other gurus, Sai Baba does not accept money, I became very interested in him. However, it was these words of Swami's that captured my heart, for this is exactly what I believed:

There is only one religion -
the religion of Love
There is only one caste -
the caste of humanity
There is only one language -
the language of the heart
There is only one God -
He is Omnipresent.

Less that three months later, on January 10, 1985, a friend and I were on our way to India. We flew to Bangalore, rested a few days, gathered supplies and, excitedly, left for Baba's ashram in Puttaparthi.

The first day at the ashram was really a shock. First of all, I had been assigned a room to myself by the accommodations office, with no furniture, no fan, a bathroom which consisted of a hole in the floor, with a faucet four feet off the ground for washing in cold water. This was not exactly inspiring. Secondly, there was an atmosphere of devotion and reverence that was completely unfamiliar to me. At once, I realized that I was there to look inward, and that I would have to detach from all the externals or I wouldn't last another day.

Miraculously, within twenty-four hours, I had begun to ignore the austerities and to accept the extremely devotional attitude of some of the devotees. I would learn my way and let them have theirs.

On the second day, my friend and I were out taking pictures. We had one picture left, and Baba came right by us in the car. He smiled at me - a smile that went right into my heart. I felt my heart physically open up. My friend looked at me and saw me grinning from ear to ear. "You're all flushed and radiant. I never saw you look like this before." For a minute, I was totally overcome with the love I had received from Baba. Then I said, "Do you think he was really smiling at me or because you were taking a picture?" I heard myself. I couldn't believe what I had said. "That's what Baba means by the monkey mind," I exclaimed. "I can't believe that after such a powerful feeling, I could say that. Unbelievable!" But what a lesson. I felt Baba had taught the necessity of training the mind to focus, to be one pointed, and this was essential for me because, by nature, I am very analytical. I decided right there to suspend disbelief and every time I was tempted to doubt my experience, I would say, "Sohum," the mantra I had chosen from my readings. It means, "I am He."

Darshan means "in the presence of a holy being." During darshan, Baba gives his blessing, takes letters and indicates which people are to go into the temple for an interview. In the beginning, I was waiting to see a miracle or to get called for an interview; in other words, I was into expectation and desire. After Baba gave me that huge smile, I felt different during darshan - more able to receive - more open and loving.

At first glance you are
But a small man in an orange robe
Sometimes stern, sometimes smiling
You smiled at me and
Gave me a glimmer of Your radiance
When next I saw You
Love enveloped me and
A tear caressed my cheek
I beg You
Come into my heart and
Show me I am One with You.

Listening to my first lecture at the ashram, I got a very helpful clue. The speaker, an American devotee and ashram resident, said, "Don't spend your time here wondering if Baba is divine; look for the divinity within yourself." How right that felt to me. A miracle would be nice but that wasn't what I wanted. I wanted to feel my connection with God. I believe in God, and I believe in myself and in following my own heart and conscience, but I wanted to feel that my heart and conscience were not mine alone. Daily I wrote letters to Baba which helped clarify my own thoughts about what I wanted.

I also began to think about my life, and I wondered why I seemed to have so many crisis. I had lost both my parents before I was 30. My brother had died in a plane crash in 1979. I had had an operation for the removal of a lump on my thyroid in 1975 when I was 35 (it turned out to be benign). I had had an unusually difficult divorce in 1976. AND my children had been in the hospital three times within a year-and-a-half in 1980-81.

I was always a "survivor" in these situation, but I knew deep inside that there had to be a better way to live through these experiences. Yet, perhaps I needed these crisis. Maybe they were teaching me to surrender. In fact, it was the night before my youngest daughter's spinal operation, after a year of trying all kinds of techniques to arrest the spinal curvature, and in a state of total exhaustion, the I finally did let go. I actually prayed to something or someone, saying, "There is nothing more I can do. Thy will be done."

What happened was truly incredible: the operation was not only a success - the whole hospital experience was easy. I was able to be supportive and loving without my usual fear and anxiety. This was my first recognition of how God reveals himself, if we truly surrender to him.

In those first days at the ashram, I found bhajans strange. I couldn't sing them in Sanskrit or Hindi, and, event though I had written music myself, I found it hard to relate to them musically. After a week or so, I began to find them pleasing and was able to feel the surge of energy they evoked.

Twice during bhajans, I smelled a peculiar sweet fragrance around me. It was the same fragrance I had noticed on two occasions back home while reading the Baba books. I asked the woman sitting next to me if she smelled anything. She didn't. I said, "It smells like vibhuti. Maybe that's what it is." But why this fragrance at home? I remember getting up and looking in the kitchen when it happened but I had found nothing. The woman next to me then said, "That's wonderful. Vibhuti is a sign from Baba to let you know he's with you." After she said that, others told me similar stories.

On that first visit, Baba never took letters from me, nor did he talk to me. However, I must confess that he looked at me quite a few times; and every time he did, I felt my heart opening, releasing a flow of love.

One afternoon at darshan, I realized I was blessed. Another day I realized that although I wanted an interview, I didn't need one. And most important, I realized that where I chose to put my attention was where I would be: focus was everything. Every day I learned something new, but it wasn't intellectual learning; it was learning from the heart. However, the most wonderful miracle was feeling totally calm and completely at PEACE for the first time in my life. Sure, I have known happiness, but this was a "PEACE that passeth understanding."

After I returned from my first trip to India, I joined the Sai Baba Center in Manhattan and began to enjoy singing devotional songs and doing service. At this point in my life, I knew I needed satsang, as Baba calls it - being with others on the spiritual path.

You ask me
Is Baba Divine?
How can I answer
When I have barely touched
My own Divinity
That He is
More than a man
I am sure
But to know
He is Divine
I must know
That I am too.

I returned to India on November 7, 1985, for Baba's 60th birthday celebration. There is no way to describe Baba's love and generosity. He was always outside giving darshan, giving gifts, giving free food for a week and, of course, giving love. Truly, his life is his message.

One morning, I awoke with intermittent stomach cramps. I went to darshan but decided I should rest and skip bhajans. However, at five minutes to nine, a friend said, "Come on, let's go. Maybe bhajans will make you feel better."

When I arrived at the temple, all places were filled so I wandered around outside and finally sat down on a stoop next to a lovely new friend of mine from Australia. Not more than two minutes had passed when she said to me, "Oh, they're calling the chair ladies. That's me. Baba's giving out saris. I can't go in with this; will you hold it for me?" She handed me a big straw mat and happily fought her way through the crowds onto the temple grounds.

About ten minutes later, I saw her signaling to me. I thought she wanted her mat back, so I slowly got up to hand it to her when she said, "Let the lady through." She then reached for me and pulled me through the crowd that was ten deep. "Go, sit down," she said, "Baba's giving out saris to the Westerners." I was totally stunned, partly from what was happening, but also because I was feeling ill and passive.

Within minutes, Baba was walking directly in front of us. He seemed to be deciding which material and color best suited each person. He had a few plain colored, satiny silk ones left. Would I get one of these? If so, which color would he choose for me? All of a sudden, there he was, directly in front of me. He gently dropped an orange sari in my lap. I was stunned, in awe. It was too much for me to absorb. I could not get over the "non-coincidence" of this event. I thought, "If one friend hadn't said to go to bhajans, and if another hadn't told me Baba was giving out saris, I would not be sitting here now."

One day, while we were waiting to go in for darshan, a seva dal (service worker), asked for volunteers to give up bhajans in order to help clear the stadium for the birthday celebrations. So, after darshan, I walked alone to the Hill View Stadium. When I arrived, I walked toward the stage, all the time looking for some Westerners to join. I didn't find any, so I squatted near some Indian women and observed what they were doing. I found myself a sharp stone and, using it like a spade, dug the weeds and stones out of the hard ground in order to make it more comfortable for all those who would be sitting there during the birthday week. For me, it was physically hard work - hard on my hands and hard on my back. But the Indian women were so happy to see me. They asked me all kinds of questions. We spoke and laughed together as best we could, Baba being our shared interest. I felt so happy doing this work among all these accepting, loving faces - all from another world. I was beginning to experience, for the first time, the joy of service, and then all of a sudden, the women started singing bhajans - bhajans I knew, like "Ganesha Sharanam" and "Shivaya Nama Shiva". I couldn't believe it! At that time, I only knew a handful of bhajans - which never seemed to be sung at the temple, and now, here I was, able to sing along with everyone. My joy was complete.

I was, once again, convinced that Baba had arranged this experience especially for me - service was one of the best spiritual practices for this upper middle class city "sophisticate."

Around mid-November, as the crowds began to grow, I knew I had to watch myself; it would be easy to become irritated and angry because of the mere numbers of people. Twice I did lose my self-control; that there was a third time, with the crowds at over a half a million people, when I couldn't move at all - not forward or backward or to either side. Everyone was pushing. I cried, "Shanti, shanti," but no one would listen. I became really frightened because there were moments when I was lifted off the ground from the sheer pressure of the crowd. I was desperate; I had to do something - but what? I thought of Baba, and crazy as it may seem, I began to sing, "Shivaya Nama Shiva." Only one man joined in; but miraculously, a tiny space opened up and I slipped through to safety.

On the morning of November 17th, Baba gave his valedictory discourse in the enormously crowded Poornachandra Hall. When Baba spoke, and the translator translated, I could understand - nothing. Then, all of a sudden, it didn't matter because I could actually feel Baba's voice melting my heart. Was it the gentleness, the tone, the vibration? At no other time was I able to experience this profound feeling. I wondered then if understanding mattered; after all, I could always read the discourse later. If I could feel my heart melting, what more could I possibly want?

My final highlight of the trip occured on November 22nd, after the overseas devotees had sung to Baba. I was in the chorus and I was very close to the stage. When Baba left in his car, I waved to him, and guess what? He waved back. I was totally overcome. For the first and only time in my life, I experienced universal love: I loved everyone. I don't know how to explain this intense and expansive feeling, but it does exist. This euphoria must have lasted in all its strength for about half an hour and then gently subsided.

The feelings evoked by these experiences have not remained, and yet because they were so powerful, I long to repeat them. I want to live in PEACE, BLISS, UNIVERSAL LOVE, and SERVICE. I am grateful that Baba has given me a taste of all of these. As a result of these experiences, I am now beginning to see the world and my life differently: A New York City bus becomes a love bus where passengers offer each other seats and smile at each other... people help each other across the street... bag ladies and bums no longer seem threatening... people talk kindly to one another. Where have all the self-centered, inconsiderate New Yorkers gone? So, I am proving to myself that living by Baba's teachings - "seeing good, hearing good and doing good" - does indeed change my reality.

My life is truly blessed. Baba says, "Be happy," and I am. The practice of Karma Yoga, dedicating all my actions to the Lord, with no eye on the fruits of my actions, has helped me enormously. Because I have been such a goal oriented person, this discipline has relieved me of the outcome, which often meant anxiety for me. Now I am more focused on the process of life; after all, the fruits are not mine, but the effort still is.

I believe now that Baba is divine; I can't tell you quite how or when this crystallized. But most important, I believe we are all divine. It is now up to us to purify ourselves so that we can experience - not just intuit - our own divinity.

Before You came
We lived as victims in a random Universe
Full of fear and separateness
Never knowing why, never knowing who
Never know Sai, never knowing You

Then You came
We learned of our strength in a perfect Universe
Full of Love and unity
Contemplating why, contemplating who
Contemplating Sai, contemplating You.

It is now almost three years since I read my first book about Sathya Sai Baba. During these years, I have become steeped in the spiritual path and its practices. Yet sometimes I have asked myself if I have truly changed or if I am only playing another game and wearing yet another mask? I have heard this referred to as "spiritual materialism," and I have wondered if I have fallen into this trap. But something happened recently which indicated to me that there are changes going on - deep important ones.

In the spring of 1986, a few of us had begun going to a nursing home every Saturday morning. We chatted, painted pictures, gave manicures and sang songs with all who wanted some company. Before entering the home, I always dedicated my service to Baba. Giving up the fruits of my actions seemed to endow me with strength and love.

Most of the patients were in wheelchairs and very sick; few ever returned home. When I first walked down the nursing home corridors, I was horrified to see the patients so drugged. One woman was so old, ill and medicated that she was unable to sit up straight. She was leaning all the way over to one side. As I passed, I prayed she wouldn't notice me, but no sooner had the thought crossed my mind, when she signaled me to her side. Of course, I had no choice but to go over to her. In fear, I quickly re-dedicated my deeds to Baba. I listened to her story, which I couldn't comprehend at all because of her slurred speech. I gently stroked her head and left as soon as I could get away without hurting her feelings or showing my own.

After that incident, I thought a lot about my attitude. Baba says that we are all God and we must treat all the same. Yet I found, week in and week out, I was spending time only with those patients I felt comfortable with and those who didn't upset me because of their appearance. And I was avoiding anyone who was bossy, angry or difficult for me to look at. It took a year before I was willing to face this - not just think about it, but face it and deal with it. I dedicated my services to Baba, and I asked for the strength to see all as God. I also let Baba know in my thoughts that I was ready for more challenge.

And so, one Saturday morning, there I was, happily chatting away with some of the ladies I see all the time, when an unknown man arrived, wheeling a woman into the room - a woman so crumpled, so disfigured that she could not keep her body erect; her head was at the level of her waist and her hands was completely gnarled.

I thought, "I hope I can do her nails and no one else gets to her first." As soon as I was free, I went over and began to talk quietly to the "new" lady. I massaged her gnarled hands and even managed to manicure and polish her fingernails. I don't remember much - only that I was happy and totally engrossed; so much so, that it was only after I had finished that I realized I had never seen her as disfigured, nor had I been afraid. As a matter of fact, what I had noticed was her radiant smile. Somehow, by Swami's grace, I had been able to see beyond her physical form and relate to her whole being. I believe this is what Baba means as seeing the divine in everyone.

Open our eyes
Help us to see
Open our hearts
To love Thee
To love Thee in all
As me, as we, as One

Free us from pride
Help us to be
Free from all fear
To love Thee
To love Thee in all
As me, as, as One


Dear Baba: September 28, 1987

The honeymoon is over. For two-and-a-half years, I was filled with the glow of you. You said, "Be happy," and I was. Then what happened? I'm not sure. I do remember saying to you, "I'm ready for more challenge." As a matter of fact, I've said many things to you, and now, looking back, I realize they all came true. I guess we should be very careful what we pray for.

I asked for "more challenge" and that I have. I asked for less ego and that I have. But I thought that when I had less ego, I'd be much clearer about what was right for me; I'd begin to tap into my higher Self. Not true at all. What has happened is, I no longer seem to need to prove myself or to show I'm smart or creative. As a matter of fact, I no longer have a desire to do anything and, given my rajasic personality, this is a scary place to be.

It seems that some other motivation, from deep within, will have to replace the driving force of my old needs and desires. Perhaps this is a necessary step in becoming your instrument - the clearing out of some ego in order to "hear" you. I trust that - sometimes. Other times, I feel so uncomfortable in this "no place" that I think I will just get a full-time job or write another show - anything to keep me from despair.

I have read that this stage of hopelessness is connected with surrender. Our patterns have changed and our ego is diminishing; if we could just feel this and get into the pain, a new sense of surrender and peace would follow. Yet, easier said than done.

I have always had resistance to change and to pain. I have always wanted to get through these as fast as possible. It has been very hard for me to accept the idea that we must welcome everything that happens to us, good or bad, knowing it is all the grace of God.

However, now I do have the new tools of spiritual practice and my new core beliefs. I believe in you, Swami, and your unconditional love, I believe that in pain, there is growth and I believe this is a necessary stage for me to go through. Yet, I feel farther away from you than ever before; my mind is a mass of rubbish, and my joy seems to have been covered over by my resistance to this process. Baba, I need you to help me let go - to BREAK me so that I can cry, not only tears of pain, but tears of joy and devotion.

Dear Swami, I ask only one thing of you. Stay with me, or rather, let me be aware of your presence throughout the journey of this lifetime; then anything will be welcome.

In November, 1987, I became a hospice volunteer. I decided to follow my training with the Elisabeth Kubler-Ross five day "Life, death, Transition Workshop." I knew I had, what Elisabeth calls, "unfinished business". For years, I had been saying, "I think my stuffed sinuses are repressed tears." I felt that the more in touch I was with myself, the better I would be in helping those who were about to die, as well as their families.

If I had known what went on in this workshop, I would have run a mile. What I heard was incredible. Some people had tried to kill themselves, some were dying of cancer or AIDS, others were abused and molested, one was a Vietnam veteran who had seen hundreds of his buddies killed or mutilated.

Participants got up in front of the group, nearly ninety strong, and dealt in few words and mostly feelings with their issues; expressing their deepest hurts, pains, anger, tears and screams. And it was scary - wondering what would happen once the Pandora's Box was opened! At one point, I felt so frightened that I was ready to leave. I prayed to Baba: "If I'm supposed to be here, give me a sign - a real sign - nothing vague or abstract. I want a CLEAR sign." Within a few hours, I found out that one of the eight trainers was a Sai Baba devotee!

After a while, I felt less panicky, as it became clear our trainers were highly skilled in dealing with these emotions. After forty people had gone through this process, I began to see that everyone suffers grief, rage and pain, although in varying degrees. We are not different; only the circumstances of our lives are different.

One morning, as I sat in meditation, I realized that I could just get up in front of the group and not know why specifically - simply trust. Then once I worked through my paralyzing fear, two thoughts came to mind: I had been setting limits for myself and protecting myself for years; but this wasn't necessary anymore because I no longer had anyone to "stay together" for - my children were grown; I was now living alone. I didn't have to be in charge or in control anymore. What I did need to do was to "let go" and let Swami in.

I remember only fragments of what I said to the group, but the feelings I remember well. First, I dedicated this experience to Baba... or I couldn't have done it at all. I told about the deaths in my amily and the hospital crisis. I said I had always felt an enormous sense of responsibility and had always been the "strong" one; I knew I was full of grief and I wanted to cry, but crying was hard for me. I finally let go of my control and began to cry gently. But I really wanted to sob and let it all out.

I was then asked if I wanted to go into another room and work privately to release more of my grief. There I lay on my back, sobbing as I thought of my mother, father, brother and my children, and how I hadn't been a perfect mother - sobbing out all my grief as each one passed through my mind. Everytime I felt stuck, I prayed to Baba to keep me open and receive my pain. A few times, I wanted to talk, but the trainer said, "No words - just sounds." And I knew that was perfect for me; for while I usually knew, intellectually, what I was feeling, I didn't always allow myself to feel it. And although I had always had a terrible fear of losing control, this time my trust in Baba enabled me to let go.

The pain in the room seemed to get lighter as more people got in touch with themselves. The love and support from the group was absolutely astounding. I felt that I would never be able to judge others or myself so harshly again, so deep had been my sense of empathy and connection with all of them. I was beginning to realize that this was a holy experience.

On the last evening, there was entertainment by the group. All were in a gay mood celebrating their release and empowerment. I, on the other hand, began to regress slowly and to feel frightened and little. At the end, everyone was dancing; and I felt very disconnected, weepy and scared. Such feelings were alien to me; I normally feel a sense of confidence and belonging in a group.

I began to cry uncontrollably. I became very scared because I felt powerless; I was a victim, reliving a childhood terror of my father which I had so often felt before I was 11. Previous therapy had put me in touch with this memory, and yet I had never fully expressed the actual fear and pain, the feeling of being a victim. I wondered, would I ever recover and feel strong again? I only knew that Baba was with me; and that my "grief" for the little girl inside - so sad and frightened - was a healing grief; and I realized only by loving her and fully embracing this experience would I be free of my lifelong compulsion to be "responsible and in control".

One evening, a few days after the workshop was over, I was feeling very sad, and I remembered that Baba tells us to turn to him. So I went to my altar and began to sing some devotional songs. When I say:

You are my mother, You are my father
You are my nearest kin...

I wept like a child. I sang this song over and over letting the tears flow. I was truly yearning for God. I felt then that I, with my little ego mind, didn't really know how to be or how to love, and that I had to get in touch with Baba, my higher self. I guess I needed this workshop, even though I felt it was such a violent form of purification. But I had prayed for all this; I had prayed for my heart to be broken so that I could weep tears of joy, so I could surrender, so I could serve with true unconditional love, and so I could be closer to Swami, my higher self, for I, too, am God.

After much crying (remember how I couldn't cry?), I realized that I had to forgive myself for being less than perfect, especially with my children, yet doing the best I could with who I was and where I was at. Only when I forgive myself will I be able to forgive others; only then will I be able to let go of my control and let everyone be just as they are and where they are, and not try to change them.

I know now what it means when we are told we must welcome the pain, for we must accept it all in order to be whole. Yet, how hard it is to welcome suffering, to always remember that pain is for the purpose of our spiritual growth. I am so thankful for my experience with Baba, for I know also know that there is a place behind all the pains and pleasures of existence where we are whole and perfect, a place beyond body, mind and thought.

In this raw state I left for India, in mid-December, 1987. The night before going to the ashram, I was very tense with worry and longing. I had my 20-year-old daughter with me, and I was very nervous about what she would think about Baba and the ashram. (She viewed her trip to India and Baba as an anthropological study!) In my heart of hearts, I wanted Baba to capture her as he had captured me; or, at the very least, I wanted her to believe in God. I kept trying to detach from this mania of maya by giving her to Baba, but she just kept returning! Then I realized: if I could not give her to Swami and trust that he had brought her here and would take care of her, it meant that I had no faith in him; and all my sadhana had been for naught. With this realization, I burst into tears. I ardently prayed for two things: "Baba, please give me some sign of your love, some recognition when I arrive." And, "Please, let me be able to concentrate on you fully and not be pulled away from you because of my attachment to my daughter."

To say that my prayers were answered would be an under-statement. During my first darshan the next day, Baba came over to me and asked where I was from. I was shocked. He had never spoken directly to me before.

"Where am I from?" I said stupefied. "I'm from New York." And in a flash, he was gone. I wept quietly, and my daughter gently asked if I was all right.

The following morning, at my second darshan, I got into the first row. Baba again asked me where I was from. This time, I was prepared.

"New York," I said expecting him to move on.

"How many?" he asked.

"Three," I said.


And the next thing I knew, my daughter and I, and a friend were going for an interview. My tears flowed in an abundance of joy, gratitude, love and release.

Baba was the perfect host, humoring his guests to make them feel at home. First, he made vibhuti for the women. It tasted and smelled fresh from the bakery. Then he spoke for a while, but I was so busy crying that I didn't hear anything until I saw him raise his right hand and say, "All the power is in this hand. This is divine power." Then he asked someone, "What do you want?" Out from his hand came a watch (set at the right time) for a young student and next, a lingam for an Italian woman's sick son. He made a ring for a German man. The ring had Baba's picture on it; Baba passed it around for all to see, asking the man, "Do you want Baba or Jesus?" When the man didn't reply, Swami said, "I know. You want Jesus." He blew on the ring twice, and lo and behold, the ring now had a picture of Jesus on it.

Every time Baba asked someone what they wanted, I repeated to myself, "I only want love, peace, Self-realization." I kept remembering how Baba says he gives us what we want so that we will want what he has to give, and that is realizing our own divinity. I was also thinking that Baba refers to these miracles as "tinsel" compared to what he could really give us.

Later in the interview, Baba turned to a lady and said, "Where is your japamala?"

"What?" she said.

"Where is your mala?" Baba repeated.

"What?" she said again.

"WHERE IS YOUR JAPAMALA?" we all chimed in.

We were all laughing, when out of Baba's open hand flowed this 108 bead, crystal japamala. It was so long... it was so big; it took time to come out of his hand. And it came out so silently. I was truly awed. I don't know what happened, but all of a sudden, I wanted a japamala - and badly. Where this thought came from, I have no idea. I never even thought about a japamala before nor had I ever used one. I said to myself, "Okay now, get your priorities straight. Do you really want a japamala? No. Remember, you want what's really important: peace, love, to know your Self." It was an uphill battle, but I finally recovered.

These manifestations are marvelous to watch, for they are a constant reminder of a larger reality. But what I remember most is the gentleness and sweetness of Baba's voice and his overwhelming unconditional love. That, for me, was the most striking part.

Swami then spoke to us about making decisions. He said we should ask ourselves: "Is it good? Is it bad?" We should wait and come to a decision - not from the intellect but from our conscience and from our hearts. He spoke of education and how book learning was not enough. We must go past the mind and past the body and follow conscience and intuition.

Baba said to me directly that my mind was a bundle of desires. At first this amazed me because I don't need or desire a lot of things. Then I remembered all my desires of the night before when I had been so anxious about my daughter. He told me that I sometimes use "sharp words" and "too many". How true this is, and yet, I was discovering how easy it is to accept his loving criticism. He also said I was a "good woman."

The atmosphere seemed very gay and light to me. I felt joyful. All of a sudden, I asked Baba if I could have his handkerchief.

"You want my handkerchief?"

"Yes, Swami."

"Later, when I see you again and speak to you privately."

"Do you mean in another lifetime?" I asked.

Now, this may sound bold or rude, but it was said in a light, humorous way. Swami smiled and repeated that he would see me again and talk to me privately. I prayed not to get caught up in this expectation.

Baba rose from his chair, and everyone began to touch and kiss his feet. I remembered that when I first observed people doing this, I had said to myself, "Not me. That's an Indian custom." But now, I was beginning to understand the significance of padnamaskar. It means surrender at the feet of the Lord, which ultimately means surrender to yourself. So, with great care, I leaned over and timidly kissed his foot.

The last thing Baba did was to give out vibhuti packets, and we all walked out of the interview room over-flowing with Swami's beauty and goodness. Only hours later did I realize that I had not worried about my daughter at all during the interview - I had been totally immersed in our sweet Lord.

I figured from then one I would be in the back row and that was fine with me. That afternoon, however, I was again in the first row. Baba came along and looked directly at me and said, "Very, very happy." And once again, I cried, more joyful tears.

This entire trip was full of grace. After spending a month at the ashram, I left for a two week trip around India. When I returned for my last three weeks, my experience was entirely different.

This time, I felt very peaceful. I kept silence the day after my return and experienced an incredible sense of bliss during afternoon darshan, bhajans and the period in between. My mind was still chattering away; but, for the first time, chatter became the background and the bliss, the foreground. I decided to continue keeping silence during meals, darshan, bhajans, and while waiting in lines; and to talk only when absolutely necessary. Silence is, of course, encouraged by Baba, and now I can see how much is forfeited by unnecessary chatter. For about five or six days, I didn't need or want any personal attention for I felt a deep inner connection with Baba - like nothing I had ever experienced before. With this deeper connection came an awareness of oneness - there were times when he smiled at someone else, and I felt he was smiling at me, and I was, on occasion, able to feel the joy of others when they were receiving Baba's blessing of padnamaskar.

So the first week back was a beautiful inner journey - no attention, no needs, just bliss from within. And then, guess what? Another interview. This time, a private one. I was totally unprepared. The minute I got called for this second interview, my bliss and inner connection with Swami vanished. As a matter of fact, I was almost mute the whole time, which I know was Swami's doing. Yes, I was still able to cry my tears of joy, but my usually sharp mind was just no there. I seemed to be in another space.

During this interview, one of the puzzling things Baba said to me was "Temper." I gently denied this because I don't get very angry; I usually express my feelings in the moment so that they don't get bottled up. But Swami repeated it: "Temper." He said it sweetly, and I knew if he said it, he must be right.

For the whole day, I was driven crazy by this word. Finally, it dawned on me. There was another meaning. And when I found out what it was, I could have cried with joy: it was so perfect, proving, in fact - without a shadow of a doubt - that Baba knew me. Yes, I had forgotten that "temper" also means to make more flexible, to soften as in the tempering of gold.

When the private interviews were over, everyone began taking out photos, books, scraps of paper, cameras or any token for Baba to sign, as a permanent remembrance of him. I was completely unprepared - which seemed to be one of my themes for this trip. (Whatever I expected to happen, never did. And whatever I didn't expect, happened). I was sitting there rather sadly, when all of a sudden, I remembered.

"Swami," I asked nervously, "Could I have your handkerchief?"

"Not now," he replied curtly.

And then in a complete change of mood, his eyes twinkling playfully, he picked up his handkerchief and feigning anger, threw it at me as if appeasing a child. My heart melted and I quickly tucked the handkerchief next to my breast.

When Baba stood up, indicating that the interview was coming to a close, there was a special moment for me that I will replay in my mind and heart forever. It was a moment where Baba showed that he knew me. Baba had been with me during that Kubler-Ross workshop, while I was rediscovering the little girl inside me and learning to open up to pain; while I was beginning - just beginning - to surrender to him. Yes, Baba knew exactly what I needed. I was sitting right in front of him, and I asked for padnamaskar.

"Here, take," Swami said as he stood up. He patiently waited as I blissfully kissed both feet.

Then as he turned away from me, with his basket of vibhuti packets in hand, I quietly said to him, "I love you Baba. You are my mother and my father."

He slowly turned back to me and with the love of a thousand mothers said, "and you are my daughter.

"Just as a loving mother cares for her child, if one has surrendered his life to God with full faith in Him, the Lord takes care of that devotee; no need to worry about anything."
- Sathya Sai Baba

From: Transformation of the Heart, compiled and edited by Judy Warner
Copyright reserved by Sri Sathya Sai Books and Publications Trust, Prashanti Nilayam


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